Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bella Figura - Mindful Creation of a Personal Setting

Photo: Costin Radu
The visit to the last performance of 'Bella Figura' on 11th of November, 2012 at Semperoper Dresden was definitely different - the second visit to Semperoper Ballett's first premiere piece this season. With more than sadness the premiere on the 27th of October, 2012 was filled as Hans Werner Henze, creator of "Das Vokaltuch der Kammersängerin Rosa Silber" choreographed by Helen Pickett, had died earlier that afternoon in Dresden.

"Bella Figura" is the title of this ballet evening with three, more than different looking, pieces. Contemporary dance orientated choreographers building on music from the baroque times to today. What shall the audience expect to see, hear, and feel? As frequent readers of my reviews on ballet in Dresden you may already know, the focus of this kind review is more on the overall impact, the notions that are set free by the evening (or not) and unseen connections into our lives, than on the technical perfection of the dance company itself.

One thing that is trickling through the minds of over a thousand opera visitors, as the room fills up, in their minds, as well as in mine these thoughts must have also come up, "According to the introduction in the basement, this is going to be not the normal performance. But what is it going to be?"

It seems quite so that Edgar Schein has been right in his short essay "The Role Art, and the Artist"with the point, "First, art and artists stimulate us to see more, hear more, and experience more of what is going on within us and around us". During the intermissions - as to jump forward for a second into the middle of the evening - I met friends, local tech-entrepreneurs to be exact, who were mind-wandering about the further development of the evening - a good sign, that emotion sensors have been activated by the artists on stage already!

The leading question this evening, "What is the bonding element that holds the pieces together, so to see it as a 'whole'?"

This time prior to the performance the "movie makers" of Semperoper Ballett, Ian Whalen and István Simon had shared on the Semperoper Ballett Youtube-channel personal interviews with the makers of the three pieces, to give the interested audience a sense about the intent of the choreographers.

One common theme that after some reflection (certainly not that very evening, as the emotional input was by far too much, as a dedicated ballet lover on Twitter wrote) within all three pieces, Bella Figura by Jiří Kylián, Zwischen(t)räume Hans Werner Henze: Das Vokaltuch der Kammersängerin Rosa Silber by Helen Pickett, and Minus 16 by Ohad Naharin is the role of the individual in loose or uniformed group context struggling to find her/his own unique personality.

Bella Figura opening the evening, after the last bell ringing, the last visitors moving into a well filled Semperoper, the stage was already opened up, and some of the dancers where doing some exercises, jumps, and alike. For the onlooker not quite clear, "Is it part of the piece, or a pre-performance training in a modern public way?"And so all started with a clearing with the mind, and an unusual start into what normally is a fixed procedure with formal announcement of not taking pictures, and the dimming of the lights.

Photo: Costin Radu
Once again the audience could view an amazing performance of Claudio Cangialosi who not only performed individually with movement, even thinking about it yourself would wrinkle your brain fully already. What struck me personally most by this piece was that the baroque music of several Italian composers had been bound together by Jiří Kylián in such a way, that the performances of all dancers, whether performing solo, or in pairs, or groups naturally flowed from one stage to the other, and back - leaving the audience with (I guess) open mouths when all dancers, men and women, appeared in red skirts being apparently fully topless. In a world where lots of personality is shaped by clothes, and the "right" costume, this piece certainly brought back the notion that, despite apparent differences we have been all equals.

As always during ballet evenings like this not having a clearly to follow story, the murmuring on the staircases, and hallways was inevitable. What could be better for intended notion of bringing some new ideas, and thoughts to the audience's mind that shaking up with such a first piece?

After the break Helen Pickett's work based on Hans Werner Henze's music, brought not just in the ballet dance as such, but enriched it through theatrical moments, and conversation of the dancers (Oleg Klymyuk & Natalia Sologub). Both being amongst the top level ranked dancers of the company wonderfully showed that play, and voice is an more than enriching way to attach the audience in what is happening on stage. Ballet dance though wonderful to watch is for quite a few people (in and even more so outside the opera) difficult to decipher on what it truly means behind what we can see. Touching our other senses, also by bringing up a huge video screen in the background of the stage enables the serendipity encounters we then can make in our mind, reconnecting with our own stories of the past, the wishes, and struggles we have been through life, and perhaps hesitated to share with others.

The program then called for a break - normally it is like that. This time every seemed different.">Jiří Bubeníček was appearing in front of the curtain. And what happened then over the course of almost 20 minutes was not just hilarious, but amazing to see how a crowd of people, normally conditioned to walk straight into the pause, stayed on their seats to watch ">Jiří's comedian-like improvisation to the jazzy sounds that filled the vast Semperoper audience hall. Again the mind, which was expecting a ballet evening of a "traditional" form was led into an open space, letting go of traditional patterns of behavior. 

What followed then, as the curtain was going up again, was a glimpse of what positively can happen when different cultures hit the facilitating ground of music, and dance. 10 days after the last performance of Bella Figura (in the regular program of the 2012/2013 season) the events in the Middle East once again brought to memory that art provides a "cultural island" that enables trust-building, and understanding beyond imagination. It not only is the ground for individuals to grow, but also for groups to collaborate across "established" boundaries. Ohad Naharin, leader of the Batsheva Dance Company (scroll back to listen to his interview given while he was over in Dresden), has created something that I, and others have probably not have experienced in an opera house: concentrating the performance energy not just on stage, rather engaged the whole audience to become one large dance company over a period of time. While writing these lines, it becomes evident to me that writing a review about a performance can only capture a little piece of the feeling, and the emotions that hang in the air that night. So I will end this with answering the four questions of the PresencingStatus:


  • Good: experiencing such an amazing evening a second time
  • Tricky: bringing my emotions, feelings, and perceptions of what was going on into words
  • Learned: combining means of communication (dance, voice, video, ...) enriches perception; don't get overwhelmed by surprises (just let it come, and act upon); music is life erasing the differences of human beings; stick to what you excel in, and search for the group that welcomes you graciously (and all win, one could see)
  • Action: reflection of the effects of this evening; awaiting the next performance at Semperoper (25th November, 2012, 7pm, 'La Bohème" with Jessica Muirhead as Mimi)


Post a Comment